Aix en Provence is the Hearth and the Gateway of Provence. If you want to discover Luberon, or to explore Lavender fields of Valensole, it’s the perfect spot to stay and explore the marvelous places around. And Aix en Provence itself deserves at least a full day of exploration, , for its gorgeous architecture, charming markets, unexpected historical flourishes. We experienced the Grand Hôtel du Roi René, and it’s definitely one of the best place to stay in town. Moreover, it’s restaurant serves a delicious and authentic Provence cuisine.
The four Stars hotel is located very near to the City Center, 5 minutes’ walk to the “Cours Mirabeau” and the Historical center. The hotel is also at a workable distance of the Train and Bus stations. Actually, even if it was renewed in the late XXth century, the Hotel has a quite long History. The hotel was created in 1929 and many famous personalities stayed there, such as Winston Churchill in 1948. The hotel name refers to the Count of Provence “René 1er d’Anjou”.
Though the Roi René is now part of an international chain (MGallery By Sofitel), the hotel manages to retain a unique sense of style and place that is both cosmopolitan yet deeply “Provençal”, juxtaposing ochre color facade with streamlined modern design. Public spaces are bright and modern, the bedrooms large and comfortable, some with balconies or terraces. Aix en Provence is quite far from Mediterranean sea, but after a tiring day exploring Provence you can still go for a swim in the swimming pool of the Hôtel (the pool is heated between March and October).
The breakfast buffet offers plenty of choices, with a particularly good spread of pastries. Special diets are catered for, with for example several gluten-free products.
No matter if you stay at the Grand Hôtel or not, you should not miss the restaurant of the hotel, la Table du Roi René. The restaurant serves authentic Provence dishes designed and prepared in a very elegant way. As Provence is blessed with a fantastic climate, especially for grapes, the restaurant has also a good selection of local wines.
If getting an authentic Bouillabaisse is getting quite hard in Provence, the one of la Table du Roi René really worth the visit. Bouillabaisse is a fish stew with a selection of Provençal herbs and spices in the broth, served with "rouille" (a mayonnaise made of olive oil, garlic, saffron, and pepper).
As often in France, the best remains the dessert: we tried the “Sphère de Chocolat Valrhona”. This chocolate sphere wraps a delicious crispy crumble and ice cream. It is served with a hot fruit coulis that melts the Chocolate Sphere in a beautiful way.
If you stay at the hotel, do not miss a chance to enjoy the swimming pool, especially during hot Provence summer. So adapt your schedule to be able to enjoy swimming when coming back from a day of exploration. If you still have energy to spare, ou also have access to a fitness room.
Words and Photographs by Vincent Sacau
Address : 24 boulevard du Roi René, 13100 Aix-en-Provence
Transportation : 5 minutes walk from the Aix Centre Bus and Train Station. If you arrive from Aix TGV station, take the bus to Aix Centre (15 minutes)
Price : Range from 150 to 300 euros